Letter: BCSC should put students’ right to read before censors’ interests

From: Lisa Ingellis


As a concerned parent and graduate of BCSC schools, could we stop pandering to the extreme and divisive factions of our society? Bills have been filed in states like Arizona and Texas that allow for fining teachers for telling the truth while obliterating requirements to teach about slavery and the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. What’s next? Burning books because we don’t like what’s in them? Well, maybe.

As The Republic mentioned in an Aug. 23 article on the recent school board meeting, the board has planned a working session Sept. 11 to discuss policies around library books. This policy review comes after the board received a petition calling for the school board to implement standards for “profanity and vulgarity” across the Bartholomew County K-12 schools.

I watched the school board meeting livestream on Aug. 21 so my daughters, both students, could hear the discussion regarding the selection of materials for school libraries. There were some ridiculous points made by some speakers drawing laughter from my kids, namely referring to books in our libraries as “porn” and objecting to teacher/student relationships due to “pedophiles working in public schools.” All of this disappoints and saddens me, especially in light of increasing amounts of censorship around the United States. I want my kids to have the same access to a diverse array of literature that I had. I also want them to continue to be taught real, accurate history, and not some version that makes a small group feel better about themselves.

Interestingly, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and American Library Association (ALA) have developed guidelines for handling formal complaints to school library collections, which are meant to safeguard students’ First Amendment rights by limiting the ability of community members of school boards to exercise content- or viewpoint-based censorship. BCSC has an existing policy that seems to be somewhat in alignment with this. Both national organizations recommend community members complete formal reconsideration requests in writing to school principals, and that schools form “reconsideration” committees, made up of teachers, librarians, school administrators and members of the community, who receive training in intellectual freedom and library policies, before they read, discuss and collectively reevaluate the availability of a particular book in the school. ALA guidelines make clear that committee members are to “set aside their personal beliefs” and use objective standards, and that books are to remain in circulation until the process is complete and a final decision is made.

Let’s avoid the embarrassment experienced in Hamilton County recently as they went off the rails in banning a number of excellent pieces of young adult literature, including “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. I sincerely hope committee members, principals, superintendents and school boards here will act with the constitutional rights of students in mind. Namely, knowing it is better to allow access to literature for those who might want it than to eliminate access for all based on the concerns of any individual or faction.